Before the contract has even been inked, questions have been asked about whether Joey B and our city`s ‘active` nightlife are going to be the matches and dynamite mix seen with Dyer and Bellamy in the past. Big Sam has moved quickly though to dispel any issues on this score:
“The bottom line is I’ve got a great player. The quality of the player is the most important thing. Sometimes they come with difficult characters and can be difficult to handle. But I’ve had players with worse reputations than Joey Barton’s and I never found them to be a problem because of the way I communicate with them and the way they communicate with me. He came here because he wants to win things and that is why I’ve come here. We’ve got the same ambitions. I’m here to improve his career. He has my respect and he won’t let me down.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking to him, trying to persuade him to come here because there was competition. We used my persuasive powers as a manager and the persuasive powers of Newcastle United as a football club to get him to come and, after a long, hard negotiation, we managed to do that. He was due to talk to the other club that had an offer accepted, but we managed to persuade him not to do that.
We told him we were the best place for him and we have got a young, exciting midfielder with great attributes who is coming into the prime of his career. He is nailed on as one of the top midfielders in the Premiership for me. He is a character, sometimes in the wrong sort of way, but he is a strong character who has strong opinions on how the game should be played. Those sorts of players excite me because they have got something to say and they are not afraid to say it.
My side of the job is to temper the other difficulties he has run into in life, not so much on the field, but off the field. I’ve asked him, as a maturing young man in his mid-20s, to curb that side of his life and make sure he focuses on what he loves best. We want him to progress rapidly as a footballer at Newcastle and hopefully in the England set-up again because that’s where he wants to be. He’s good enough, but he has got to do a lot of work off the field to get back to that. I’m confident I can handle him.
People’s characters and where they are brought up bring different qualities and different things you have to manage.I’ve been doing that all my managerial career, not just difficult characters, but different nationalities and cultures. The skill is knitting them all together and making them all a family. You have to build a culture which is a good, happy working environment which encourages players not to step out of line.
They have to be aware they are representing the club, not just themselves. They are professional footballers and they have to conduct themselves in the proper manner. That applies to everybody, not just Joey. You will always have disciplinary problems with players along the line, but you deal with it and you get on with it. The player has to accept that, but man-management is a particular skill I think is top of my asset list.’
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